The Difference between Coaching & Development

In a nutshell, what are you capable of listening for? Your own level will limit you.

I met a very successful and wealthy businessman the other day over lunch.

I engaged him in conversation and mentioned a way I could save his business a fair amount of money over the short term, by changing the way he thinks about recruitment.

His response was only three lines, and in those three lines, I was able to break down his thinking to such a degree, and understand his level of complexity to the extent that I stopped talking to him in that particular context, and moved on to something he would appreciate. I did this on-the-fly, a competence in itself.

What did I do? We’ll get to that in a minute.

First, how do we differentiate between a professional who helps CEO’s or high level Managers to develop their thinking, their decision-making process and thus influence their bottom line, and someone who calls themselves a “coach”, or “business coach”?

In my experience, the level of their client’s thinking, what they are saying in context, the structure of their language and how that translates to their behaviours, and the individual thinking preferences that make up one’s thinking, are all key to understanding the level of complexity that a client is speaking from. 90% of the coaches I’ve met don’t know that they should be listening for these things. They focus entirely on the content of the words the person speaks, and thus create their own meaning around the words.

But then they miss so much! They don’t hear what the speaker has unconsciously said about their worldview.

The person I talked with said this, after I mentioned a particular profile tool I use:

“I’ve seen those kinds of profiles before. I’ve tried lots of them, and they’re never very good. I prefer to see someone and get to know them in order to see how they are.”

What does this mean to me? What is my interpretation (delusion?) of his thinking, behaving, his level of development and his world view, based on three sentences?

If we break them down into their component parts, we can tease out the Thinking Preferences (meta programs) from his language. These were derived by Roger Bailey and furthered by Arne Mous, in Germany. There are around 57 of them, but only these few apply to the sentences above.

  • Internal – he filters the information through his own judgment and criteria.
  • Procedural – He prefers to do things in a set way, as he’s always done them.
  • Own – He runs my comments through his own value set.
  • Global / Sameness w/ Exception – Comparison between my system and the “lots” of profiles he’s seen already. He wants to do it the way he did before, as it works.
  • My way or the high way – “I prefer to…” – motivated by control.

These individual preferences are important, but the skill is in understanding that it is the combination of them then drives behaviour and a world view.

Using the Cognitive Developmental Framework by Otto Laske, we can map the above Thinking Preference-derived behaviour (and world view) to the behavioural patterns of people based on their Social-Emotional and Cognitive Complexity – by combining the two, we get their Epistemic Stance. This is the way they experience the world according to them.

In a nutshell:

  • Level 2 behaviours are about self. Unless it’s happened to them, it’s not real.
  • Level 3 behaviours are about community and others. Their behaviours have them. They have many hidden behavioural patterns.
  • Level 4 behaviours are again about self, but with a level of awareness that differs from level 2 in that they are capable of empathy and understand their own thinking. They personality is object, not subject to them.
  • Level 5’s are again about other, but in a collaborative way, with big global ideas.

If the man had asked me to tell him more about my ideas, and how I could save him money, time and effort, he would have been leaning more towards level 4 thinking, which would be a totally different world view.

So we are then bound to ask: is there a correlation between meta-programs and Social-Emotional & Cognitive developmental levels? We believe the answer is yes, through behavior mapping.

By evaluating the three sentences above and determining the Thinking Preferences within, then mapping those related behaviours to Laske’s developmental levels, we can reasonably determine that the man with whom I talked briefly, and who runs a very successful and profitable enterprise is thinking around the level 2 mark, resolving to level 3 for emotional decisions. Not exactly what you would expect him to be.

Or would you?

I am writing a book right now that delves into the Thinking Preferences and levels of development of Entrepreneurs. Or people who run their own business.

The surprising result emanating from the research so far is that by far the richest business owners (not necessarily the most successful) are all thinking around level 2. What is it with this level of complexity that allows one to become wealthy? More so than level 3’s and 4’s?

If you want to know more about that, you can buy the book – next year!

So what can we do to vertically develop our thinking?

How we do this is to give a client exercises to expand their meta-program continuum.

What we are after is the ability to be “at choice”, moving from ‘subjective experience’ to ‘Objective Evaluation’, through self-reflection.

We don’t want them to be Internal or External. By bringing to their attention the difference between an Internal perspective and an External perspective, we want them to be aware of both and choose how they should be in context, in the moment. In other words: at Choice.

We provide the interface between self-awareness and complex thinking.

How we do this will be in the next article.